ATF special agent cleared in Virgin Islands shooting death

ATF Special Agent William G. Clark was cleared of charges Thursday.

Story highlights

  • The charge against Special Agent William G. Clark enraged many federal law officers
  • He had intervened in a domestic argument in 2008
  • A federal investigation cleared him, but Virgin Islands police charged him with murder

A Virgin Islands jury has found a veteran Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent not guilty of using excessive force when he intervened and fatally shot a man during a domestic argument in 2008.

ATF Special Agent William G. Clark was cleared of charges Thursday in a case that enraged many federal law enforcement officers who said Clark was heroically coming to the defense of a battered woman.

"ATF has been steadfast in its support of Special Agent Clark and wholeheartedly agrees with the jury's verdict," said Thomas Brandon, ATF deputy director, in a written statement.

ATF officials said Clark was confronted by Marcus Sukow on September 7, 2008, and "took immediate action to defend himself and others by discharging his firearm to stop the attack."

The incident occurred outside a St. Thomas condominium where all of the main participants were neighbors.

While the broad outline of the shooting is undisputed, two government investigations came to starkly different conclusions.

A federal government multiple-agency investigation of the incident unanimously concluded the shooting was justified. The ATF even returned Clark's gun and badge and put him back to work.

But a Virgin Islands Police Department investigation prompted prosecutors to charge Clark with second degree murder. Local prosecutors evidently were heavily influenced by two points: First, the dead man was armed only with a flashlight; second, Clark shot him five times.

According to a police affidavit, Clark was leaving his condo when he encountered Sukow and his girlfriend. They had been drinking and were having a "disagreement."

Federal authorities were so incensed by the Virgin Island's prosecution of Clark -- and so concerned other federal agents could similarly be prosecuted -- that they removed all ATF agents from the Virgin Islands in 2008, a policy that continues today, the agency said.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is an unincorporated territory of the United States.

2010: Federal agents nationwide eye ATF agent murder trial

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.